It was widely believed that women are born with a set number of eggs. A limited – although large amount – of eggs. But now there is new scientific developments that could provide women with an unlimited supply of eggs, yes unlimited! How?
Researchers have discovered that it is possible to spontaneously produce fresh and new eggs via stem cells. In a study featured in the journal Nature Medicine, a study involving mice found that these newly created eggs could indeed be fertilized. The researchers, “reported finding and isolating the stem cells which go on to produce eggs in the ovaries of reproductive age women.” In the lab they found that, “the cells ‘spontaneously generated’ immature eggs – or oocytes, which looked and acted like oocytes in the body.”
But researchers added that, “the primary objective of the current study was to prove that oocyte-producing stem cells do in fact exist in the ovaries of women during reproductive life.” They continued saying, “the discovery of oocyte precursor cells in adult human ovaries, coupled with the fact that these cells share the same characteristic features of their mouse counterparts that produce fully functional eggs, opens the door for development of unprecedented technologies to overcome infertility in women and perhaps even delay the timing of ovarian failure.”
And it goes beyond just that. “These cells, when maintained outside of the body, are more than happy to make cells on their own and if we can guide that process I think it opens up the chance that sometime in the future we might get to the point of having an unlimited source of human eggs.”
But there are a litany of legal and ethical issues in regards to doing research on human eggs which make it difficult for any practical applications of these discoveries to materialize. Do you think the laws should be relaxed for research like this?
Image: Espen Klem via Flickr